Podcast Diaries: The Cannabis Conversation E1

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The Cannabis Conversation: A European Perspective On the Emerging Legal Cannabis Industry.

Welcome to the first ever episode of The Cannabis Conversation. We're here to talk about cannabis, but probably not in the way that you've been used to. Once the preserve of stoners and wasters, cannabis is now becoming more mainstream. And we're at the beginning of what is set to be a massive global business. Experts predict that within 10 years, it could be worth as much as $300 billion. In fact, some say as much as $500 billion. Whatever it is, it's a big number.

I want to find out more about why and how this new industry is taking off. So I've decided to go out and speak to people who are helping to shape it, from lawyers to doctors to scientists to researchers, entrepreneurs, and investors. In fact, anyone who's got a good story to tell within the sector. There's a lot of noise coming from North America about cannabis, but no one's really covering it from a European perspective on a podcast. So that's why I decided to launch my own.

So what else am I doing it? Well, I'm very interested in career and industry change. I've been a lawyer by trade for the last 15 years, but over the last couple of years, I wanted to try and do some different things. Cannabis is this brand new legitimate industry which is just about to happen. It has huge potential to have positive effects on both health and society, despite its unfairly negative portrayal over the last 70 years.

I'm also really interested in entrepreneurship. I don't feel like we're taught very well at school, if at all, about this being a viable way to earn a living. So I'm really interested in speaking to people who've had the balls to go out there and start something themselves. Nobody really knows what's going on in the cannabis industry, and everyone is making it up as they go along. For me, that is a great place to be inspired to start a business, as there's so much opportunity.

And finally, I want to change the cliché stereotyped that surround cannabis. Every time I tell my friends what I'm doing, I have to go through about five or 10 minutes of really lame jokes about Bob Marley, Cheech & Chong, product testing, you name it. For all friends that are listening, you know who you are.

What I found is quite the opposite. I met some very smart people who are highly motivated and really came to do things differently. So I please ask for some patience over the coming weeks. I've never really done any editing, recording, or any kind of public performance at all. So this is all very new for me. For example, we had a few teething problems with the sound on the first few episodes, so please be a bit forgiving with that. I promise it will improve. Okay, here we go.

Today, I'm really excited to have George McBride here as my very first guest. George is CEO of Hanway Associates, a London-base consultancy focusing on cannabis research, corporate advisory communications and events. He was formally a policy director at Volteface, which is a drugs think thank. And he's a leading figure in the nascent UK cannabis industry. So he's the perfect guest to kick us off. So George, welcome.

Thank you very much for having me. It's a pleasure. Glad to be here.

So possibly, before you get involved in a bit more detail about the cannabis industry, I was just wondering if you could give us a bit of background on who you are, and where you came from, what you do.

Yeah. So I am, like you said, the CEO of Hanway Associates. But I've taken quite a circuitous route to get there. I initially practiced as a commercial barrister. That was my original career. So I studied law and went straight into the bar after my university, didn't really enjoy practicing commercial law. I always wanted to be a criminal barrister. I'd been interested in drug policy and drug rules back from when I was a teenager. But there was no money in the industry. My parents decided to sell the house, so I panicked and decided to take money and go in. The difference between a 15,000 pound starting salary and a 60,000 pound starting salary was quite appealing at the time, after years of being broke as a student.

But I didn't last long in that career. Left and then ended up being a travel consultant to [inaudible 00:04:14], advising the [inaudible 00:04:15] on their holidays. I did a lot of travel. And then set up a startup with friends and was doing politic polling for the 2015 election. Realized I was more interested in policy, politics, and public affairs, but didn't continue in the public polling. Left and traveled again for a while. And then I was in Nicaragua learning, practicing my Spanish, and I saw a job at The Beckley Foundation, which is run by Amanda Feilding, who has been a leading voice in drug reform for decades and decades.

I always admired their work. They'd done research into medical applications of psychedelics and pushing cannabis research when nobody was doing it. And they wanted a legally educated person with working proficiency in Spanish. And I was in Nicaragua, and I thought, "Oh, this is me. I look official. I'm going to take this job." And I went, joined Amanda. I helped. I worked with Robin Carhart-Harris and David Nutt on the trials into medical applications of LSD that they were doing at The Beckley/Imperial project at Imperial College University.

And then, from there, met Paul Birch and Steve Moore, who were setting up Volteface. Paul Birch is a wealthy tech entrepreneurs, one of the co-founders of Bebo, who made his money doing that, and started to move into philanthropy and wanted to push forwards drug reform, in particular cannabis reform. And he hired, initially, myself, with my legal background; Alastair Moore, who's creative with an events background and design background; Dr. Henry Fisher, who's a chemist that also works with the Beckley Foundation with an interest in drug policy; and Cameron Armstrong, who is now an musician. But the other, the three of us, Henry, Alastair, and I worked at the Volteforce, built it out from a magazine through to an events space, and a physical hub for everybody in cannabis, and who was looking at cannabis, to come on and work together and have a working space and move our way through to a campaigning organization that went on to lead the campaign for Billy and Charlotte Caldwell and their fight for access to Billy's medical cannabis.

But during that whole process, Alastair, Henry, and I co-founded Hanway Associates because we've got a lot of interest from people working in the cannabis industry about what was going on in Europe, needing advice. And so we set up the company and [inaudible 00:07:04].

Great. So I need that advice because I want my listeners to find out more about the cannabis industry. So I think it sounds like you're the perfect person to speak to. So, as our first episode, the purpose of this is to give a history context on cannabis, and what happened before and what's happening now. So, I guess briefly, what are some of the examples of how cannabis had been used in society, because it wasn't always illegal and deemed harmful. So [crosstalk 00:07:33]

No, the prohibition of all drugs, and cannabis in particular has, although it seems from most people's perspective at the moment to be [inaudible 00:07:44] is actually a strange and short period in the whole of human history. We have records of cannabis being used for medical purposes going back thousands of years. And the prohibition of cannabis only started in the 19th century. And [inaudible 00:08:05] only really started in the late 20th century, although its roots are in Victorian Colonial era.

So for thousands of years, it was used by different people. The cannabis plant comes from Central Asia and the Indian subcontinent. And there's a long history of recorded medical uses in Chinese cultures, Indian cultures, and other Asian cultures and peoples from thousands of years ago. And then we know that the hemp plant has been cultivated for at least about 10,000 years. And we know that was for industrial uses, and quite probably for psychoactive and medical properties as well. So there's a really long history of use of cannabis. But from [inaudible 00:08:56] perspective in the modern era, cannabis was sort of rediscovered in terms of its medical applications in about 1830, by an Irishman called William O'Shaughnessy. And it was his traveling to India and seeing the way in which people used the traditional preparations, like bhang, an edible form of cannabis, to treat various conditions.

That then led to it being a very popular medicine in Victorian Britain before it kind of fell out of fashion and out of use by doctors for a range of reasons, because there were mostly better drugs that had been invented. The hypodermic needle became very popular, and you can't inject cannabis. Opiate derivatives were being found more popular to use. So cannabis kind os fell out of fashion a bit. It was very hard to dose because it was a plant extract. People hadn't really understood how to perfect the act of growing plants for medical purposes. It required differing yields and contents from one flower to another, so you couldn't get a reliable form.

And then we see, there's a whole history of its prohibition before it's rediscovered back in the seventies and eighties, particularly with the advent of the AIDS epidemic and people realizing how important it could be with people who were suffering from HIV and AIDS, to help alleviate their condition, not as a curative, but as a palliative measure too.

Yes, that's really interesting. Particularly, I think, too, I think I read something that Queen Victoria herself used it for menstrual cramps.

So the story goes, although it's disputed as to whether ... It's a good story.

It's a good story.

There certainly were a lot of people in the honor society in Victorian times using it for that application and others. Obviously, we know now again that there's a whole range of medical applications of cannabis. We'll still got the problems that they had in the Victorian times, which is it's hard to standardize this very complicated plant that contains hundreds of active compounds. We don't still quite know which formulations work for which conditions at which dose. So often, it is still easier for some people just to say, "Well, I'll give you morphine for your pain," which is what started happening in late Victorian times. But yeah, people wouldn't think how popular it used to be as a medicine who had its whole range, and people were really excited about it in the 1830s through to the 1870s. 

Interesting. So as you alluded to, the prohibition is a relatively recent and short period of time in the whole history of cannabis. When was it actually made illegal. And what was the process? And what were the main reasons that it became illegal?

The main principal reason is racism. So the way in which it started to be prohibited was in Colonial era, when there were various different peoples who were moving around the British Empire, or being moved around the British Empire, who already used this for either recreational and medical reasons. The First Bishop often then didn't like the use of it in their colonies, where there was a perception that it might corrupt the white community, or that it might lead to misbehavior from ethnic communities.

So, for instance, the indentured servants from India brought their ganja to the slave colonies in the Caribbean, and it was manned in those areas often because there was a perception that it might effect the output of the colonies, the sugar plantations, etc. And then that pocket of regional prohibition came around.

Then it wasn't until the early 20th century that we started to see the main controls of other substances on a global scale, which started thanks to the opium wars, and thanks to, again, fears around racial bias. Because in the West Coast of America, there were a lot of East Asian workers building the railways, who used to roll their opium to smoke. And there was this widely believed perception that the men would then be arrested to white women if they were taking this drug.

And then lot of this actually comes from the way in which Europeans used alcohol during that colonization of other parts of the world. There were places in the Americas where we would deliberately only trade with alcohol, as opposed to with anything of value other than alcohol because it would lead to people becoming dependent on those white traders. They would then disintegrate their communities to a certain extent by giving them drug dependencies, on which they would then rely on the traders, so it would give higher bargaining power. So we used alcohol as a tool to help disintegrate and destroy populations around the world.

And then there was this fear that these other communities would be using their drugs to do the same to us. So that was the main thrust of why it was banned, as opposed to any perceived harms to the user health risks. I think most people these days assume that drugs are banned because they're dangerous. And that just has never really had anything to do with it really. It's the perception that that's what it is.

Well, that's the propaganda, I suppose.

Yeah.

[inaudible 00:14:35]

Exactly. And most of that comes from the 1960s and 70s, which is the advent of modern prohibition, the drug war, the attempt to actually not just restrict and control the trade, but there was this stated objective of trying to make a drug-free world. And what they meant by that was conducting aerial crop eradications, full-blown wars around the world to try and destroy crop production. And through that process, all that was managed to be done under those Nixon and Reagan era policies was to rapidly increase the rate of drug use around the world. And during that time, cannabis went from something that had been used in certain different communities around the world at relatively low levels, to by far the most popular illicit substance in the world, with hundreds of millions of users around the world. So it didn't work.

And so wouldn't you say that in the sixties was when the prohibition was in full swing. When did it actually start? When did it officially become illegal? I assume that it came from the US and that kind of spread around the world in terms of illegality?

Yeah. So the main root of it are that there are three UN drug conventions, which incrementally added layers to the prohibition and the control of jobs around the world. They made exceptions for medical uses for certain drugs, but cannabis was put in the group of drugs which they deemed to have no medical value and high potential abuse. And even at the time at which this was done by the UN, this was obviously correct. We knew that this was not the case. There were medical applications of cannabis. It doesn't have as high rate potential of abuse as many other drugs. So this was false.

And that happened, yeah, through a US-led United Nations from 1960 through 1971 as they produced those [inaudible 00:16:47]. That was the tool in order to enforce policies of prohibition on countries around the world, rather than just the existing prohibitions that existed in certain western countries. So that was the tool through which to pursue the drug war.

Yeah. I mean, it's a big topic in itself, isn't it? Yes, and this could be a whole show in itself. But what do you think have been the main byproduct of prohibition? What effects has it had on society in general?

Yeah. Well, I think everyone widely obviously normally talks about negative aspects, which have been the main one. This has been a way to strip communities of their traditional herbal medicines, to eradicate and erode their culture, to harm their ability to make a living. Hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the wars which flowed from this and turned a trade that was relatively niche and benign into a trade that had no form of legal regulation when you are trading and there's no way to legally resolve disputes, the natural endpoint of that is violence. That a way that humans resolve their disputes without the modern systems that we've built by the law.

So the main result of prohibition has been violence. On top of that, what it's done is made the products actually a lot more valuable. So instead of actually reducing the demand for drugs, what you do is drive up the margins for the producers. And instead of having a consumer-controlled market, which is what you have for going into the free markets. You have consumers in control because they drive the supply through their demand. You have a supply-driven market in which suppliers are pushing a product which has hugely high margins.

So it's increased drug use. It's increased levels of violence around the world. It's damaged cultures around the world. And most upsetting, I think, for me, although the others would be more upsetting for other people, is the way in which it's restricted scientific investigation. There has been a ban on science. Despite that, there's been some research into cannabis during prohibition. Most of it was only approved if you were trying to prove that it was dangerous rather than try to actually explore how drugs worked and how cannabis worked. So it's been a huge travesty on science.

Yeah, I think we're on the same page in terms of it being not a positive thing. And I think one of the things you talked about earlier was the racism angle. And I've read a lot about the fact that drug policy has disproportionately targeted and affected minority peoples, and particularly in the US.

Yeah. And, well, you say particularly in the US. And that's true to a certain extent because the US in general, not just for drugs, but for everything, have incarcerated people at a much higher rate than we have here in Europe and in the UK. But actually in the UK, our drug rules are more disproportionately enforced against B.A.M.E. people. So even though less people are arrested and imprisoned, the discrimination is more pronounced here in the UK. And Release, a really great organization that provides support to people who've been affected by drug wars, they've done some really interested research on that and demonstrated just how discriminatory it is here in the UK.

But you've got that side of things. Then you've got the historical roots of its racism, that this was about fears about other cultures poisoning [inaudible 00:20:35] or damaging white people's influence or their business interests. That's the main historical roots of it. But then even when you look at ... We never, all through that, [inaudible 00:20:47] period, we never really enforced drug rules in the UK until we had the Misuse of Drugs Act. And then a lot of the enforcement started after the Windrush, when people from the Caribbean, some of them came over, some of them had a habit of using cannabis for recreational, medical, and medicinal purposes. And there was police enforcement of that.

And that's how drug enforcement really started in the UK. It was fears of alien cultures coming over, which is [inaudible 00:21:20] rather strange anyway. It was not an alien culture. The Caribbean people were part of the British Empire. They came over as British citizens. The ganja that they've been cultivating for hundreds of years was brought over by Indian indentured servants who were a part of the British Empire bringing it to Jamaica, then bringing it back to the UK. So it's been part of our culture the whole time. But there's an obsession that it's some sort of foreign culture.

And then there is, obviously, just a wider issue within the criminal justice system, that there is a strong racial bias at every single stage of the process, from how police enforce laws, through to whether the Crown Prosecution Services go on to prosecute through to the decisions that juries make and the decisions that judges make. Every single step of the criminal justice system is discriminatory, and quite radically so.

So this is the reason why obviously racism is a much bigger issue than just job policy. But job policy has been a major tool in perpetuating racism, definitely. But here in the UK, we can't really have a drug war like they have in the US. So I think a lot of people were trying to legalize drugs here in the UK. Want to talk about the race issue, they want to talk about the drug war. And those are quite abstract concepts for most British people. Most British people don't know people who've been involved in violence associated with the drug trade. Most people don't even know people who've been arrested for drugs. Whereas, in the US, with two million people in prison, most people do know somebody that's been arrested for drug crimes. Most people have seen that there's been a shooting around the corner from them. Most people know about the tens of thousands of people who are being shot and murdered in Mexico on a year basis, fighting over control of the drug trade.

So drug wars are a much more looming sector in the US, and therefore a much bigger part of the public narrative. And I think here in the UK, what people want to talk about is mental health, is access to medicines, is different issues when you're talking about drugs. The drug war is kind of a bit too abstract for most people.

And it's one of the reasons for starting this show, is hopefully to highlight how things are slightly different in the UK and Europe, vis a vis what's going on in North America, and for a lot of the reasons that you state. And therefore, the evolution of the industry is going to happen in a different way.

Yeah. And it is. It's true. We've got 80,000 people in prison, and Americans have two million. So the criminal justice aspect of it is going to be a much bigger debate in the US. And we have to find our own narratives here in the UK. And they're not often what drug reformers or people who are passionate about these issues would like to be talking about. They would like to be talking about the tens of thousands of people who are still involved in military conflict as a result of laws here in our own country. But that just doesn't cut through, unfortunately. So you've got to talk about different issues.

And I think that it's now become a much more salient issue here in the UK that people know that there are medical applications of cannabis. They know that you can't get access through your doctor or through your pharmacist. And people are upset about that, and it's starting to cut through because people want access to something that might give them a better quality of life. I think that is hugely important. So that's the main thing that people are talking about in the UK now.

Yeah. For sure. For sure. Well, on a more positive note, things are changing. How and why are things changing now?

Yeah. Well, we had the two big cases here in the UK. Alfie Dingley and Billy Caldwell, two children with severe and debility forms of pediatric epilepsy, who have very public calls for access to medicines to treat them. So I've been working with the campaigners from both of those different campaigns for [inaudible 00:25:40] Alfie or Billy, or any of the other children who've been being deprived of cannabis.

And I think Billy's mother, Charlotte, has to take a lot of credit for what change we've seen here in the UK. She was really willing to put her neck on the line and be a public figure about this and really push hard about this. I think internal Tory politics played a big issue. The timing of this came when Sajid Javid was new to his job, when Theresa May was in a position of weakness. Theresa May was vehemently against any reform in this area. She has been consistently discriminatory towards people who use drugs throughout her career, as we've seen with the hostile environment of the Windrush scandal as well. And that currently cuts across the other issues I've been talking about through her whole career. I think she's defended policies that have been racist and discriminatory in their effect. So she was always a big barrier to reform.

But Sajid Javid was new to his job. He understood where the public sat on this issue, which was 88% for the legalization of medical cannabis. And he took upon to defy Theresa May and say [inaudible 00:26:58] realized that he wouldn't lose his job, because if she'd have sacked him, she was running out of allies, she would have been left on her own, and she might have lost her [inaudible 00:27:09] even earlier than she's going to lose it now in the current disaster.

Defying Theresa May seems to be [inaudible 00:27:15].

Yeah. So it was brave mothers, and sick kids, internal Tory party politics, and then the general shift in PR. I think one of the major contributing factors to legalization in the US and on the academic literature, time and time again, it's the way in which cannabis is described in the media, which influences people's perception. Which is kind of sad because the reality is that propaganda works. And when the drug war propaganda was in full swing in the seventies, that worked. And most people developed a strong aversion and fear of using drugs, this kind of nonsense term that refers to a group of medicines that we decided people can't be trusted with.

So, yeah. The PR, the brave mothers, the sick kids, and the Tory party politics all came together. And I'm really glad that we got the chance that we were looking for to a certain extent. But the reality is being that this was legalization in name only. Basically, nobody has got access since they changed the rules.

And just to refresh everyone, the laws have changed such that specialist consultants are able to prescribe medical cannabis at their discretion.

Not at their discretion. If it was at their discretion, then that would be great. The change to the regulations allows consultants, not GPs, to prescribe. But on top of this shift, so they moved cannabis out of the schedule that says that it's got no medical value, into the schedule where most opiates sit that say they've got some medical value but they're also a bit dangerous.

And then so they changed that, and they allowed but they restricted it to only consultants being able to prescribe, which is a novel situation. They've never done that before, and there was no real precedent for it. But then, on top of that, there's been guidelines that have been heavily restrictive. So you can't just prescribe at your discretion if you're a consultant. In fact, they've made it a complete nightmare. There are pain specialists who would like to be able to prescribe it. But you have to go and get an opinion of one of your peers. You have to fill out 100 forms. It's a very complicated process. And the basic driving force behind this is in order to ensure that it isn't prescribed. That is the way in which it's been going about.

And there are some legitimate concerns in that. There aren't enough products in high enough quality at the moment. Medical cannabis has only been properly industrially legalized in a few countries for a very short period of time. So there's not the quality of product and the volume of product that we would need. Then there's doctors that don't understand dosing. They don't understand the effect of cannabinoids in the body. They're not taught enough about your endocannabinoid system, which is the system in your body which chemicals in cannabis act on, which modulates everything from your mood, your sleep patterns, your immune response, to a whole other range of things in your body.

And we just ... We don't know enough about this yet. And so to be using cannabis as a modern medicine is going to take decades, not years, for us to get all the data that we need and to allow doctors to be able to prescribe it in the way that they do pharmaceuticals. But what the reform that's happened elsewhere in the world is seeing is it's been about appreciating that, but realizing that it does still work in its raw herbal form for a lot of people, and just as a compassionate act, allowing them to access products. So it wouldn't meet normal medical approval standards, but are from a plant, are low risk, and we've been using it thousands of years, we know aren't going to kill people, and so letting them use it if they find a benefit to it. And that's the reform that we need here in the UK, not ... We'll get the cannabis medicines that doctors can prescribe for the really severe cases of when people are using for things like multiple sclerosis and pediatric epilepsy. And we need more work, research, there.

But in the meantime, we need an amnesty, complete amnesty, on the million people in the UK who are using cannabis for medical purposes already. This isn't a normal [inaudible 00:31:46], where with good reason they don't allow people to use it, so it's gone through huge levels of approval because of the things like phentermine, and the drugs can have strange consequences in the body that were uninspected. So you go through really heavy approval processes.

But cannabis is different. There are hundreds of millions of people using it all around the world already. So the important thing is just getting it into the light, improving the quality od the products that people are using, improving their education and information around it, and most importantly, not arresting anybody for using it. We've still got patients in the UK being arrested for using something on which they depended, or which greatly improves the quality of their life.

And the British establishment aren't getting it. They don't get the issues. They're not up to date with what the public want. The public were clamoring for medical cannabis, not for a change in the regulations to slightly shift the status of cannabis while still not allowing anyone access to it. I get messages from dozens of people a week desperately looking for ways to get access to reliable medical cannabis so they don't have to be buying something that could be completely not what it says on the bottle from the junk dealer, and that's a terrible situation.

Yeah, I think it's quite obvious that it's a small victory and a lot of work to do.

Yeah. But it's the way in the door.

Yeah. And from what I understand, in a lot of countries across the world where there's been a change, it's often been as a result of a sick child.

Yeah.

And as a parent myself, I can sympathize that if I know there's a medicine that would work for my child's illness, just because the government or someone tells me that it's illegal won't stop me from trying to get that. But it's obviously making things a lot more difficult.

Yeah. And sick children are obviously ... The way this issue changed is when it changed from being a question of, "Do you think people should have access to medical cannabis, to which the British public largely went, "Yes, but I don't really care," kind of a general ambivalence to, "A sick child has had his medicine confiscated from him. What do you think about that?" And there was outrage. I mean, it was on the front page of the newspaper for days in a row.

So you have to create those sense of outrage if you want to move something up the political agenda. But unfortunately, in our democracy, unlike some others in states in America, etc., there's no real way for us to just push forward with this policy as people with regard to public ballot initiative or something like that. There's not much direct democracy here. So we have to do it through our parliamentarians, and they happen to be further behind the public on this and much more concerned about the risks of any change than they are about the potential benefits.

Yes, it's very interesting. And it would be, again, a huge topic that we could certainly talk more. Your new position is running your consultancy, and obviously your background, you're getting to see this emerging industry from a number of angles. If you had to choose one area, what area are you particularly excited about?

The bit that really gets me excited is the agri-tech when people were forced to cultivate their cannabis in a clandestine fashion. They started growing indoor under lights. Now this was not something that people have done before, really, because obviously it's so cheap and easy just to chop down trees, plant some seeds, and grow something outdoors. That's what everyone had done. And that's what we've done for millennia. And we've chopped down nearly all the forests now. And we've got seeds planted covering nearly all of the earth. So we're running out of space.

But meanwhile, people have been growing cannabis under lights. Originally, that had been a really energy intensive process. The lights produced a lot more heat than they did light. Growing plants was very difficult. But then [inaudible 00:35:38] cannabis cultivation practices now, we are now in a situation where people have developed incredibly sophisticated lighting and control environments, in which you can grow crops in a perfectly standardized way, which you can't repeat outside. If it's indoors, you can control every aspect of the environment, from the CO2 levels to the oxygen, the light, every aspect of how a plant grows.

And you can also create amazing systems like ... So a friend of mine, Rudy, has a company called Seaweed out of British Columbia. And he's got an aquaponic system with a salmon farm. Now you feed the salmon, the salmon swim around in their tank, their excrement, when their waste comes out, gets fed to bacteria. The bacteria break that waste down into nitrates, which is the food for the plants. The plants then grow in a really healthy nice environment. And what you've got is a system which produces almost no waste, which has very low energy usage, and which your only input is fish food. And then out the other end, you get salmon and cannabis. So really high value crops, grown in a sustainable way, with low energy input.

And this is the future of agriculture. We need to produce our crops close to where people consume them because most of the carbon involved in the process is [inaudible 00:37:06]. So you need to grow crops where people use them. So this technology that people have developed, because cannabis became such a high value crop because of its prohibition, is the only reason that we've invented these amazing systems.

But it's times like in times of war is when we do all our inventing. So in this strife, and in this really unfavorable situation, we've actually developed some really cool stuff. And what I want to see is what [inaudible 00:37:35] from cannabis to go to cities being able to, instead of cities being these things that just suck the life out of the surrounding wildlife, being able to re-wild areas where we currently farm, and being able to repurpose old buildings in urban environments and turn them over to agriculture. And we're seeing it happen in New Jersey and other parts of the world. And I think we're going to see a lot more of that. And that's what I want to get more educated on and do more of that kind of work.

Very interesting. Sustainability and environmental factors are very important. And no doubt that the new burgeoning cannabis industry will [inaudible 00:38:17] to that.

Yeah. And you could make better cannabis too, which is the best thing. It's just win, win, win.

Yes.

Because you've got a perfectly controlled environment.

Cool. So we're getting towards the end. One of the things I'm really interested in, from a personal perspective, and one of the reasons I wanted to do a podcast is just I'm very interested in how people transfer and transition into a new career or a new industry. What advice would you have for anyone that's interested in the cannabis industry?

I've always kind of done things that hard way. So I have had quite a few careers for somebody ... You're supposed to have like five jobs in your life, and I think I've already had about six careers, and I'm 31. So I get bored easily. And I've normally done things the hard way and just flipped the table over from one career to the next, from working in construction, to being a barrister, to being a salesperson, to working in travel, to being a pollster, to being a researcher, to being a consultant.

So I just got bored, and I flipped the table over. But I know for a lot of people, that'd probably be quite daunting. [inaudible 00:39:15] to scratch in terms of pay because you have to start again like everybody else. You can't just ... If you just care about ensuring that you're constantly improving the quality of your life and your income, you can't make big jumps into new industries. But there are ways you can do it by just getting involved. You can come to First Wednesdays, the event that Hanway Associates run, which has gotten really popular in London, [inaudible 00:39:50] cannabis industry meet up. You can come to our conferences like Cannabis Europa. You can read and learn. And you can take the plunge now.

I think for the people in the UK, we still don't really have an industry because there's not legal consumers yet, or there's only handful. But London is a professional services hub of the world, and you can do creative services for a cannabis company. You can help them with whatever your professional service might be. There is an application for it in the cannabis industry. That's one thing that people don't understand about legalization, is people have been growing and selling cannabis since time immemorial. And that won't change with legalization. There's still people growing and selling it.

What changes is that you now have accountants and lawyers, and every other professional service that is involved in [inaudible 00:40:40], which means that everybody gets to profit off the industry, not just the drug lord kingpin who runs the whole vertically integrated cultivation operation that does everything from growing it, to distributing it, to selling it, and then all the money just goes to one guy. Now we can have an industry where everyone could get involved and get a slice of the pie. So, yeah, there's loads of stuff you can do from London to get involved.

That's great. I think one of the interesting things that I found is these companies still need people to work for them. And there is no such thing as deep experience in the cannabis industry because it hasn't existed. So everyone is going to have to look very laterally, In terms of how they hire people. And that's probably its own different businesses. But I would say, for candidates, they may have to think outside the box in terms of what they can offer and what they're looking for.

And that's why I think at Hanway Associates we have a really multidisciplinary approach, and we hire people with different backgrounds and different sectors, and different academic backgrounds because there are parallels with the cannabis industry, with the dot-com boom. And we worked with a lot of people who were involved in that. First Wednesdays is a nod to First Tuesdays, the original networking event in London when everyone was setting up dot-com companies.

Then there's the parallels with e-gaming and the way in which online gambling really changed gambling, and the regulations had to run to adapt to everybody gambling online. There are parallels with the [inaudible 00:42:06] industry. There are parallels with tobacco industry. There are parallels with just fast-moving consumer goods, like soft drinks and food.

So there's all these industries and sectors, and they all already have solved all of the problems that cannabis industry is now trying to solve. So all you got to do is bring your insights from your industry, have an open mind, appreciate it's not the same industry. It wouldn't be the exact same solution. But a lot of people think that we're fixing novel problems. They're not novel. But they're problems we fix [inaudible 00:42:37]. So just need to find people, put them in the right place.

I think that's great advice. Okay, so my final question. What did you tell your parents when you said you were working in cannabis?

They were really supportive, actually. So when I said that I was doing the job for Amanda Feilding at the Beckley Foundation, my dad was like, "Amanda Feilding, I know that name. I know that name." And then he was racking his brain about it. And because he's older, he never thinks to just Google something. So he was just racking his brain about it. And then he rang me and said, "I remember who she was. She was involved in that trepanation campaign in the seventies." And my parents were big hippies in the seventies. There's photos of them with hair right down to their waists, both of them. So my dad was really excited about it. He actually drove me to the interview because he was dying to see her house, and because he remembered her from the seventies as being this quite outlandish and passionate voice about the potential of drugs as alternative therapy. So my dad was super supportive.

I think my mom has always kind of wished I'd just go back to being a barrister. She likes being able to tell her friends that I was a barrister. But ever since I've been popping up on BBC News, and getting involved in these public campaigns, and writing in the papers and stuff, she loves it now.

Yeah, exactly. [inaudible 00:44:00] Yeah, I can imagine that maybe some other people's parents are not as open-minded as yours.

[crosstalk 00:44:07]

I.e., mine. Cool. Well, George, thank you so much for coming on today. I think it's a really brilliant start to the podcast series. And I hope everyone learned a lot from our chat.

Yeah. Well, get in touch with Hanway Associates, if you need anything.

Cool.

So thanks for having me.

Thank. No worries.

Okay, that's the end of episode one. We got through it in one piece. Hooray. I hope you liked it, and I hope you tune in again next week. If you did like it, if you can leave a thumbs up review, share, post, whatever you want. I think it all helps. And I think you again for joining me.

 

Show Notes:

On our first ever episode I speak to George McBride, CEO of Hanway Associates - a leading cannabis industry consultancy in London. We discuss the history of cannabis, the reasons why it was made illegal and deemed dangerous, and how and why things are starting to change now.